There’s no single secret that can lead you to a great content marketing strategy. Your writing needs to be consistent, valuable, and in line with your brand standards and the rest of your inbound marketing strategy (such as your SEO or social media campaigns). But the most important factor for your content marketing program’s success can be reduced to one characteristic: whether or not people want to read your material.
If people want to read your content, you’ll get more repeat visitors, you’ll get more word of mouth promotion, you’ll get more initial hits from your syndication channels, and you’ll even get a higher volume of searchers. Some factors that influence the desirability of your content, such as the catchiness of your title and the structure of your body, can be honed through practice, but some factors—like finding the lucrative topics that attract the most readers—can be elusive.
Fortunately, there are some strategies you can adopt that make your topic-finding missions easier and more consistent:
Hopefully, you’ve already been writing content for some time. If that’s the case, you should have ample data that you can analyze to determine which of your topics tend to be the most successful. One way to do this is to log into Google Analytics and take a look at the internal pages of your site that have generated the most traffic. Take a sampling of your top contenders, and use them as jumping-off points for future topics. You could even do a direct follow-up to some of them.
Alternatively, you can look at more qualitative data to determine which of your blogs have been the most successful in the past. Take a look at the type and number of comments your blogs have generated—are there any that stand out with threads of dozens of comments? Any that have generated tons of social shares and likes? Use these as your jumping-off points as well; even if they haven’t generated as much traffic, they’ve generated sufficient interest.
Generally speaking, the sales team of an organization is the most plugged in to the profiles and needs of your target demographics. If your most valuable and most common types of customers are facing a common problem, your sales team knows about it. Hold a sit-down with a few of your sales reps and ask about what types of problems your customers typically face. Then, generate a list of topics that address those problems directly with advice or instructions.
There are many ways to aggregate your own news feed of information—for example, you could cultivate a list of article sources using a blog reader, or compile a list of your most valuable news sources on social media using something like “Lists” on Twitter. Consult this news feed on a daily basis, and take a look at what’s trending in your industry. You should be able to pick out a handful of topics that are capturing significant attention, and spin variants of those topics on your own blog.
It may seem like cheating, but it’s not. Your competitors are trying just as hard as you are to appeal to your audience, and they may have discovered a handful of topics you’ve never even considered before. Take a look through your top competitors’ blogs, and scout for articles that have gotten a significant amount of attention in the form of comments, likes, and shares. Don’t lift these topics directly, but feel free to draw inspiration from them and use them as brainstorming fodder.
While keyword-specific optimization strategies are quickly becoming obsolete for SEO, you can still use research on search trends to fuel your content strategy. Head over to Google Trends, where you’ll be able to get a glimpse or a detailed view on the topics and searches posed by the masses, over the course of a day on up to a year or more. Viewing these trends may introduce you to a popularly searched-for topic that’s relevant to your business but as-of-yet unexplored on your blog. Check back regularly to get a pulse on rising trends and interests.
Forums are a perfect place to scout for potential topics because they typically feature individuals with concrete problems. Threads are typically started by a significant question or dilemma with an invitation for community suggestions, which gives you a key opportunity to not only find potential problems faced by your key demographics, but also which problems seem to be the most common. Keep a running tab of the most productive forums you find, and revisit them on a regular basis to get more ideas.
Groups on social media can be powerful places. Since all the group members have signed up because they’re interested in the central topic, they tend to be both active and passionate about discussing that core topic. Check out Facebook groups you can get involved in, or LinkedIn Groups related to your industry. Look for individuals who have started popular topics, and use the topics or comment threads as fuel or inspiration for your own posts. It’s even more valuable if you get your own brand involved in the site, responding to others’ comments and igniting further discussions.
There are a number of “alternative” search engines out there, some of which are excellent for finding quick answers to questions. Quora and Topsy are two great examples of this. You can perform searches for broad topics related to your industry here, and a list of subtopics, mentions, titles, and questions will appear (depending on what specific site you use). From here, you’ll be able to get a bird’s-eye view of the kinds of questions people frequently have—and the types of answers they usually get. This should point you in a solid direction for writing a desirable and needed piece of content.
It may seem like an obvious strategy, but it’s often neglected by content marketers. Sometimes the best way to figure out what your audience wants to read is to ask them point-blank. There are a number of ways to do this, based on your personal preferences. You could conduct a survey on your social channels, casually ask individual followers when they approach you online, or dedicate an entire post or thread on your website to generating ideas for future blog posts. Most of your readers will be honest, and happily share any topics they’d like to see in the future.
Acquiring the topics that people want to read is half the battle. Once you’ve got a sizable list, or at least enough topics to get to the next section of your editorial calendar, you can begin crafting the titles and copy that will compel your audience to keep reading your impressive material. The more attention you can capture and keep, the more conversions and revenue you’ll be able to earn.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.